You always get two shows for the price of one with Fred Eaglesmith.
Take away his guitar – at one point he did work the audience with just a microphone in hand – and the Canadian would rival many a stand-up comedian. He's brash and merciless, targeting our dear Queen and her eldest son with searing mischief and admonishing fans who shout requests with blunt eff-yous. The fans know he's only kidding. Her Maj and Charlie couldn't vouchsafe the same. His impression of "Big Ears" being bewildered at the thought of two women fighting over him was priceless.
It's not quite the case that somewhere among this raucous mirth a musical event breaks out. The transition from wounding wit to hard-bitten, spare strumming troubadour is seamless. Sometimes the humour simply continues in music, most brilliantly in Lucille, where a true tale of a teenage Fred's involvement with an older woman is altered not at all in the latter's favour but she winds up enjoying a daredevil drive from her care home just the same.
Loading article content
Eaglesmith's main strength as a songwriter is his sincerity, with sentiments distilled to the bare honest essence.
Alcohol & Pills laments the loss of Hank, Jimi, Janis et al with a palpable sense of hurt welded to scorn for the business that drove them to such untender mercies and though he made the audience wait for it, he depicted the fall of a Last Picture Show-like community in a reading of White Rose that was truly epic and all the more affecting for the realism this son of a bankrupted farmer can invest in a sense of big business-fuelled injustice.